Commentary: 4% Salary Increases Not for Parliamentarians

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Alicia Chamely
By Alicia Chamely

I NEED some help trying to figure this out. When public servants were offered nothing more than a 4%
increase in salary, the excuse was it was what the government could afford.

As it is, the largest area of recurrent expenditure in the national budget are salaries and 4% was as high as they could go. If they were to agree to a higher increase it would mean they would need to take the extra money from reserves earmarked for national development. There was all the justification in the world for this measly 4%.

Experts chimed in, as they always do, arguing that salary increases should not only be based upon the cost of living, but should also be measured on productivity. If public servants are slaying at their jobs,
putting in the time, contributing, problem-solving, then their salaries should be adjusted to reflect their worth to their organisation… like how done in the private sector.

Whatever the argument or justification, given the traumatic costs of living (I nearly passed out in the
grocery this week), a 4% increase really doesn’t go far. But, hey, I mean, if that’s all we can afford… Then Friday February 15, 2024 rolls around and the Salaries Review Commission 117th report was laid in the
House of Representatives by Minister of Finance Colm Imbert.

And child, has the SRC not been listening to the government for the last few years? Do they not know we have no money? Do they not know we have to keep tightening our belts for the sake of our beautiful country? Clearly, they know something we do not, because the SRC recommended some wild salary increases for our government officials.

Perhaps the biggest increase was to the prime minister. The SRC, in all their wisdom and la la land calculatory (not a real word, but it is today) methods recommended a humble salary increase of over
30%. From his current $64,270 to $80,000.

Other members of government and head state officials also got recommendations for salary increases…well except for the chief justice. Apparently the SRC didn’t think he needed any increase, so his salary remains the same. Looks like CJ Ivor Archie is just going to have to keep slumming it with that bread-and-butter salary of $50,350, tax free by the way.

Naturally, Imbert justified the process of the SRC and how they got these figures by saying the recommendations were based off the results of the Job Evaluation Exercise and the Compensation
Survey, which serve as an “objective assessment of what holders of the offices should receive.”

I wonder if these same systems are used in determining salary increases for the public services? Anyway, this report got people vex and rightfully so. President of the Oilfield and Trade Workers
Union Ancil Roget piped in saying, the SRC should give the government a 4%, after all if its good enough for the people, shouldn’t it be good enough for our leaders?

In a time where everyone is catching their nen-nen to survive and thanks to increased construction costs, food costs, fuel costs, and new forms of taxation, even the once comfortable have found themselves scrapping the bottom of their piggy banks for some extra change. The laying of this recommendation just shows a massive absence of empathy and a special type of out-of-touchness (also not a real word, but we are having a day) that is pervasive among our elected leaders.

Where is the transparency and justification for these increases? Are they performance based? Because if
they are there should have been some salary deductions, not increases.

Lecturer in Finance at the University of the West Indies Dr Vaalmikki Arjoon hit the nail on the head when he said, “Any proposal for salary increases for parliamentarians must be transparent and rigorous to public scrutiny. A performance-based criteria should be integral to such deliberations, ensuring that any rise in renumeration is justified by demonstrable improvements in performance. Without such accountability measures, any notion of salary increases, particularly given our current economic performance and pervasive crime rates, would not only be questionable but wholly inappropriate and grossly undeserving!”

Ladies and gentlemen, give this man a round of applause, because this is why we are vex. What aspects of our government’s performance can justify a salary increase? I’m not seeing it. Yes, there are good things that have been done, but not enough and not enough to justify salary increases.

Before we go French Revolution and begin marching in the street with our guillotines all greased up, it is important to note the recommendations have NOT yet been approved by the government. But we still can’t eat cake. Which leaves us wondering whether they will or they won’t accept these raises. If they were smart, they wouldn’t accept them, from a purely political move as we descend into election season, it doesn’t look good.

If they accept them, it would be interesting to see if the opposition (, who has been vocal in their lack of support for the SRC recommendation, would refuse their increases or smile politely and accept them, with an “oh well, we said we didn’t want it, but you know how it goes.”

Whether the increases can be justified or not, it is really in poor taste to accept these increases given the current state of the nation. And that raises the question if they find extra money to pay themselves, why can’t they find it for other employees of the state? Also, if they accept the increases, where is the money coming from? What national improvements or projects will be skirted down to accommodate the increases cost of salaries?

The issue is more than an increase in salary, it’s the lack of transparency and the hypocritical nature of who gets paid what and for what.

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